Defending Your Dental License in Florida: The Lento Law Firm
If you're a licensed dentist in Florida and you're worried about the implications of an investigation into your license, you're not wrong. The State of Florida holds its healthcare professionals to high standards of ethical and professional excellence. The Florida Board of Dentistry takes all complaints seriously and has the authority to suspend or revoke a license based only on a preponderance of the evidence. A single complaint, whether it stems from a baseless accusation or an honest misunderstanding, has the potential to trigger disciplinary action by the Board, up to and including the revocation of your license.
The simple fact that you've acquired a license to practice dentistry means that you've invested a great deal of time and effort into building your career. Without experienced legal counsel, a complaint against your license could derail everything you've worked for. In these uncertain times, your best chance of navigating the disciplinary process and retaining your license lies with a seasoned professional license defense attorney familiar with Florida's disciplinary proceedings.
The Professional License Defense Team at The Lento Law Firm has a wealth of experience defending dentists and other licensed professionals across Florida and nationwide. We will assess your case, guide you on potential strategies, negotiate for leniency from the Board on your behalf, and strive to secure the most favorable outcome for you. Contact our offices today at 888-535-3686 to schedule a consultation.
The Regulation of Licensed Dentists in Florida
The Florida Board of Dentistry, a part of the state's Department of Health (DoH), oversees the licensing and regulations of dentists in Florida. Licensed dentists are expected to abide by the Laws and Rules of Dentistry as written in the Florida Statutes. These laws include not only statutes passed by the State Legislature but also the rules imposed by the Florida Board of Dentistry. These laws also stipulate the Board's authority to issue licenses, enforce practice standards, and impose disciplinary actions, including license suspension or revocation of a license.
What Might Lead to a Dentist Losing Their License in Florida?
Most accusations that could lead to a dentist losing their license originate from alleged violations of the Laws and Rules of Dentistry as described above. Some of the more common allegations include:
- Fraudulent Practices: Fraud can take various forms, such as illegal “upcoding” of insurance claims, overcharging patients or insurers, false patient diagnoses for insurance purposes, billing for unrendered services, operating without a valid license, or accepting referral kickbacks.
- Sexual Misconduct with a Patient: Engaging in a romantic relationship with a patient under your care is a serious ethical violation that could result in license loss.
- Substance Abuse: If someone reports you as being under the influence of alcohol or drugs while on the job, this could potentially lead to the loss of your dental license.
- Gross Negligence: Examples of gross negligence include incorrect or incomplete diagnoses of patients, wrong medication prescriptions or dosages, failure to provide necessary follow-up treatments, or incompetently performing procedures and thus causing harm to patients.
- Criminal Convictions: Certain criminal offenses, especially felonies and crimes of moral turpitude, can disqualify you from holding a dentist's license in Florida. Failure to self-report any conviction to the Board can also lead to disciplinary action, even if the crime itself would not disqualify you from being licensed.
Other Disciplinary Actions Besides Loss of License
Not all allegations of misconduct necessitate license loss. The Board considers numerous factors when determining disciplinary action, and many lesser sanctions may still allow you to practice dentistry. Such actions include:
- License Suspension: A temporary cessation of your practice.
- Practice Limitations or Probation: This could involve restricting your professional activities or banning certain practices, possibly under supervision.
- Financial Penalties: The Board can impose fines for violations of state regulations.
- Reprimand: For less severe offenses, the Board might issue an official warning, which becomes part of your record but does not limit your license.
Bear in mind that even these lesser penalties can negatively impact your career because they become part of your public record. These records may be visible to potential patients, employers, healthcare institutions, and licensing boards in other states, impacting your ability to practice. The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm can intervene early in the investigation process to reduce these risks and possibly prevent sanctions from appearing on your record.
National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB)
If any type of disciplinary action is taken against you as a dentist, the Board is required to report it to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). This information is accessible online and can be searched by certain employers and other state licensing boards, which could impact your ability to get licensed in another state and/or hired. Hiring an experienced professional license defense attorney, like the Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm, can protect your interests and hopefully avert these consequences.
Areas We Serve in Florida
With a burgeoning population of over 21 million individuals, Florida ranks as the third most populous state in the U.S., surpassed only by California and Texas. At the Lento Law Firm, we provide representation for dentists grappling with licensing issues across all cities and municipalities in Florida. However, we predominantly serve clients from the state's densely populated regions, including, but not limited to, the following:
Greater Miami Area
Miami is not the largest city in Florida (Jacksonville holds that distinction), but Miami does anchor the state's largest metropolitan area, home to a combined population of more than 6 million people. Known as the “Magic City,” Miami is a melting pot of cultures, with influences from Latin America and the Caribbean evident in its cuisine, music, and festivals. Miami's expanded metro area, which includes cities such as Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, offers a wide range of attractions and experiences, from beautiful natural parks to world-class shopping and dining, not to mention more than 100 miles of the most popular beaches in the country.
Home to nearly 1 million, not only is Jacksonville, Florida, the largest city in Florida population-wise, but it is the largest city by area in the continental United States. Nestled along the banks of the St. Johns River, Jacksonville boasts a rich maritime heritage and offers a variety of water-related activities, from fishing to paddleboarding. The city is also home to a diverse range of neighborhoods, each with its own unique character, from the historic charm of Riverside-Avondale to the beach-town vibe of Jacksonville Beach. With its thriving arts scene, world-class golf courses, and an array of dining and entertainment options, Jacksonville offers a blend of relaxation and adventure that appeals to residents and visitors alike.
Located along Florida's Gulf Coast, the Tampa/St. Petersburg area is the second-largest metropolitan area in the state, home to a combined population of 3 million-plus. This region is an international business hub known for its healthcare, tourism, finance, and entertainment sectors. St. Petersburg, famous for its pristine beaches and the globally renowned Salvador Dali Museum, also offers an array of top-tier restaurants and the breathtaking Fort De Soto Park.
Home to 300,000 people (and anchoring a larger metro of 2.5 million), Orlando, Florida, is a city synonymous with fun and adventure. Known as “The Theme Park Capital of the World,” Orlando is home to world-famous attractions like Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort, and SeaWorld Orlando. But there's more to Orlando than just theme parks. The city also boasts a vibrant arts scene with numerous galleries and performing arts venues, along with a bustling hub of dining, shopping, and nightlife. Surrounded by beautiful parks and lakes, Orlando also offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities like boating, fishing, and golfing.
Tallahassee, the capital city of Florida and home to 197,000 is a blend of fascinating history, vibrant culture, and natural beauty. Known for its strong educational presence, it's home to renowned schools like Florida State University and Florida A&M University. Tallahassee also boasts beautiful parks, including the Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park, perfect for outdoor activities.
The Disciplinary Procedure for Dentists in Florida
The Florida Department of Health (DoH) is responsible for enforcing discipline for licensed healthcare professionals in the state, including dentists. If you're a licensed Florida dentist accused of wrongdoing, the disciplinary process will move through a set of steps as follows.
Nearly all disciplinary actions against dentists begin with a complaint lodged with the DoH. This complaint can be filed by anyone, including patients, their families, colleagues, other healthcare professionals, or anyone who believes that you have breached state regulations.
Once the DoH reviews the complaint to verify the alleged wrongdoing falls within its purview, the case is transferred to the DoH's Investigative Services Unit (ISU) for a comprehensive investigation. This phase may involve soliciting additional information from you (including a written response to the complaint), interviewing the complainant and potential witnesses, and issuing document subpoenas. The objective here is to see whether there is evidence to support the allegations made against you.
Establishing Probable Cause
Upon conclusion of the investigation, the case is handed over to the Prosecution Services Unit (PSU) to review the evidence and determine whether there is probable cause to proceed with disciplinary action. If the evidence is insufficient to validate the allegations, the PSU will dismiss the complaint at this stage. If probable cause is established, the case progresses to a formal complaint.
Formal Administrative Complaint
If the case moves forward, the PSU will file an official Administrative Complaint against you with the Department of Health. At this juncture, your case can be resolved in one of three ways:
- Formal hearing: If you dispute the Administrative Complaint, you are entitled to defend your license in a formal hearing before an Administrative Law Judge with legal representation. The ALJ then makes recommendations to the Board of Dentistry based on the evidence presented.
- Informal hearing/Settlement agreement: If you don't challenge the facts of the case, you can enter into an informal hearing with the Board to negotiate a settlement agreement, one in which you agree to the disciplinary actions recommended by the Board. (A good license defense attorney can often negotiate favorable and lenient terms at this stage.)
- No contest/hearing waived: You effectively admit to the allegations and accept the Board's disciplinary recommendations without a hearing.
Board's Final Decision
In instances where you're found guilty of violating your license terms, the Board will decide on the appropriate disciplinary actions, which could range from suspending to revoking your license to practice dentistry.
Right to Appeal
You retain the right to appeal the Board's decision with a Florida District Court if you're dissatisfied with the outcome of the disciplinary process.
The Importance of Legal Representation in License Defense
Although you can certainly represent yourself in license disciplinary proceedings, it's generally not advisable. The Board's primary goal is to safeguard public health and safety, and they only need to demonstrate your guilt based on a preponderance of the evidence. Licensing boards often make errors in their decisions, whether due to a misinterpretation of evidence, failure to conduct thorough investigations, or even bias against you. Hiring an experienced license defense attorney can help level the playing field and significantly improve your chances of keeping your dentist's license intact.
At the Lento Law Firm, our Professional License Defense Team will:
- Review the complaint and evidence against you and formulate a strategic plan to challenge it;
- Advise you on your options and the best strategy for resolving your case;
- Gather evidence and engage witnesses in your defense;
- Negotiate with the Board at various stages to have the complaint dismissed or secure less severe penalties and
- Represent you at the formal hearing, if required.
Protecting Your Florida Dentistry License with the Lento Law Firm Team
As a licensed dentist in Florida, the mere existence of a complaint inherently threatens your livelihood, regardless of whether the complaint has merit. By engaging our Professional License Defense Team at the earliest sign of trouble, you significantly improve your chances of negotiating a more favorable outcome, ideally one that preserves your license. We have nationwide experience defending dentists and other licensed professionals successfully, even with complicated circumstances involved. Act now to protect your career. To discuss your case and explore your options, contact the Lento Law Firm Team at 888-535-3686 or reach out via our online form.